Aaron Murray the difference-maker in Georgia win over Tennessee

He's done it before and Aaron Murray did it again against the Vols. (Jason Getz / AJC)

He's done it before and Aaron Murray did it again against the Vols. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs kept all their season hopes alive with Saturday’s 34-31 overtime win over Tennessee but, man, what a costly victory.

The fates seemed stacked against the Dogs as the UGA sideline looked like a triage area, with three key offensive playmakers — Keith Marshall, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley — all helped off the field with demoralizing knee injuries, forcing Georgia to rely on a pair of relatively untested backs and a decimated receiving corps.

But with a gritty next-man-up attitude that saw little-used senior Rantavious Wooten catch six passes and score two TDs and true freshman tailback J.J. Green run for 129 yards, Georgia managed to pull it out before a noisy UT crowd, thanks in part to a sudden about-face by Lady Luck when the Vols’ Pig Howard lost control of the ball diving for the end zone in overtime, resulting in a touchback and Georgia’s ball.

But chiefly the Bulldogs won the game because of Mr. Cool, fifth-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray, now the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leader in career passing yards.

Even as Tennessee ate up clock driving to take a 31-24 lead, I was thinking, “We just need to put the ball in Murray’s hands.”

Richt and his staff probably were thinking the same thing, as it looked like possibly the Georgia defense was told to go ahead and let Rajion Neal waltz into the end zone untouched in order to preserve time on the clock for the Dogs’ comeback. If that was indeed the case, it was a very smart decision.

With 1:54 remaining on the clock, Murray brought his team down the field yet again, and the 75-yard, 10-play scoring drive culminating in a 2-yard touchdown pass to Wooten was exactly what we have come to expect of No. 11.

With Todd Gurley not playing and Keith Marshall hurt, Georgia had to rely on a pair of freshman backs. (Jason Getz / AJC)

With Todd Gurley not playing and Keith Marshall hurt, Georgia had to rely on a pair of freshman backs. (Jason Getz / AJC)

True, it was a much tighter game than it should have been, largely due to a couple of special teams mistakes (a field goal attempt bouncing off a goal post and a blocked punt for a UT touchdown) and the apparent inability of Todd Grantham’s defense to get off the field most of the time on third and fourth down.

In the end, however, placekicker Marshall Morgan, who earlier had set a Neyland Stadium record with a 56-yarder, came through with a clutch OT field goal and his delighted team swamped him in celebration. (My daughter was amused to see a UGA student’s tweet at that moment pleading with Morgan not to tear an ACL in the melee. It was that kind of day.)

If style points are awarded just for running up the score on a lesser opponent, the Dogs won’t be getting any for this win over the Vols. But Georgia probably impressed a lot of folks with the way it managed to earn a gutsy win under pressure on the road with a couple of starters not able to play and amid numerous new injuries.

There’s a lot of football left to play and the Dogs have a lot that needs fixing, particularly on defense. But on this day in Knoxville they got the kind of ugly victory that usually is a hallmark of a special season.

Feel free to share your own views on the nail-biter between the Dogs and Vols. …

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

224 comments Add your comment

James Alexandra

October 6th, 2013
8:50 am

This game challenged Georgia and if the players understand that to be really great you have to rise to those times and overcome as a team. This was a win that defined the team and kept them together tighter than ever.

I am proud of Georgia and the way they as a team stayed focused and executed the game plan. I must admit the defense still needs a lot of work and I hope this is resolved soon. I am confident that it will happen, I hope Hicks and Turman will be put into the mix, at running backs and let one of the other guys maintain the F.B. position.

FSDawg

October 6th, 2013
8:51 am

I am shocked at the pro Bobo comments on here. Bobo is so predictable. We should have put Tenn away in the first half. I understand all the injuries are devastating but we have not lost in O lineman and have arguably the best QB in the nation. Tenn is a horrible team and we continued to give them confidence because BoBo couldnt put them away. I am a huge Richt fan and grantham is suspect too but we all know he is playing 10+ freshman. A great DC will always compete with us because Bobo calls an average game. Bobo is average with unbelievable talent. Imagine what we could with a mind like Spurrier.

Mcdawg

October 6th, 2013
8:55 am

Were UTs tackles holding every single play?

Have to get Murray in a rhythm early. If he does nobody can stop our offense

Still looking for the difference maker on D missing you Jarvis

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
8:57 am

1969 dawg…..

Tennessee win out??? Bwaabwaaaabwaaabwaaa!!! The vols win two conference games…vandy and Kentucky! You are giving them too much credit.!!! Lol…..they’re 1-25 vs ranked opponents since 2008. Their only win was against us…yes UGA! Smh! Hey I tell you what vols are good at though….injuring players!! Their field looked in horrible shape….I think they sabotaged the field just to slow us down…it worked….plus the terrible maintained field cost us our season…look at all the injuries!!!!

sc_dawg

October 6th, 2013
8:59 am

If Grantham is here next year it shows that this program is happy with the outback / capitol one bowls every year.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 6th, 2013
9:03 am

sc_dawg

this program is happy with outback bowls and 10 wins; are you just now finding this out?

Mcdawg

October 6th, 2013
9:04 am

I agree FS dawg game could have been over at half. Took foot off pedal against Clemson and settled for 2 yd rushes and then too late

If you are going to run the FB run hicks

Where was Rome and Lynch

We had these guys on their heels and didn’t finish the job

D panicked after the blocked punt but fans were lethargic and so were players and we let them back in the game

Our offense has to score it’s what they do

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
9:05 am

I apologize guys…I would of posted earlier….but I felt like I almost had another heart attack watching this game! I fear they are more hear attacks to come for me watching my bulldawgs this year…because of these reasons

1 defense is poor

2. Special teams is poor

3. Offense gets to conservative when we get a lead!

NoAxeToGrind

October 6th, 2013
9:07 am

Grantham needs to be fired. He had absolutely no clue what UT was going to do on any of the fourth down situations on the last UT drive. In addition, on more than one occasion, UT receivers were wide open with no defender in sight a la Willie Martinez. Richt will never win a NC without a competent defensive coordinator. If it were not for blind ass luck,the game would have been lost.

RiffRaff

October 6th, 2013
9:09 am

Seems a little suspect that three key players go down with the same injury. Dirty play? Tennessee has been known in the past to try and win at all costs. Guys getting tackled and then punches flying around in the pile. Not exactly a clean program over the past few years…..

Sorry haters

October 6th, 2013
9:16 am

Georgia was so close to losing yesterday… but they didn’t! And a ton of pathetic people from the fan bases of Georgia Tech, Auburn and Florida were probably screaming and throwing things when Howard fumbled the ball into the end zone for the touch back. You people who watch Georgia every week in hopes that we lose… grow up. Get a life and stop obsessing over a team just because that team beat you. I don’t get on Alabama boards and troll them and write things like “Bama looked sloppy today” or “Bama is so overrated!” after they don’t play a perfect game. I’m sure you were angry when Murray tied the game on that clutch touchdown pass, but it is what it is… GEORGIA WON and you wasted your time watching us pull another one out.

RiffRaff

October 6th, 2013
9:18 am

Ok, maybe only Marshall’s injury was the result of a cheap shot, but the field was in terrible shape. Must be home field advantage…argh! Wished Murray would have hit his open receiver 10 yards further up field instead of trying to dump it to Marshall.

ARdawg

October 6th, 2013
9:19 am

Riffraff

Two of those knee injuries, the Vols never touched the injured player. It was freaky bad luck. Marshalls also freaky bad luck with the angle he got hit. Clemmons was wide open on that play. I still don’t know why Murray didn’t throw it to him other than it was designed for the RB in the flats.

I can’t get past that delay of game penalty on the defense. Has anyone ever seen that before?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 6th, 2013
9:19 am

Sorry haters

keep gulping that kool-aid

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
9:20 am

Maybe we should’ve worn the red pants……looks like we needed some fake juice! Because we came out flat. Looks like we came out of the gates expecting the worst! Instead of playing with that attitude of saying hey……let’s take this thing we got this!!! I blame this on the coaches!!!!!

ARdawg

October 6th, 2013
9:22 am

Riff
The Vol players were playing on the same field. There did seem to be an awful lot of divots as if the turf wasn’t holding. How much that contributed to those injuries I don’t know

45 ACP

October 6th, 2013
9:25 am

Just win Baby.

RiffRaff

October 6th, 2013
9:36 am

AR

Good point. Guess just bad luck. Dawgs are pretty banged up now. Now gotta get ready for Missouri…..don’t know how good they are but they are 5-0. Hope Gurley can get back…Go Dawgs!

Mobile Dawg

October 6th, 2013
9:37 am

Tennessee played lights out, they elevated their game to the highest level they’ve played in years. They wanted it badly, we walked in wounded, left mortally wounded, but still won. We did tons wrong, but still won. Character isn’t built in a day, it takes seasons. This team is growing character wise every game. This is a game we would have lost in past years.

It wasn’t pretty, we didn’t play our best, but still won against a highly motivated team, with SEC talent, in their house. I personally didn’t enjoy the game, watching those kids being carried off the field hurt me, thought we should have dominated, but we managed to make the plays required to win. Lady luck finally came back around to our side when we needed her.

My thoughts are with the players that have worked so hard, good luck, get your education, that’s the most important reason you’re at UGA now.

Maybe Richt will arrange an offer to Grantham to go back to the NFL and bring in a SEC caliber DC, I truly believe we have to much talent to be playing as inconsistent as we are this far into the season.

If luck is truly a commodity of a NC team, Richt had his share yesterday, both good and bad.

No real Dawg fan should be complaining this morning.

CTG and THE NFL

October 6th, 2013
9:37 am

Some NFL team, believe it or not, OR another mid level college program, will take CTG off of our hands.

UGA does have Rumph at 6′5″ that has been dealing with a nagging hamstring. Additionally, we have Blake Tibbs from Atlanta. The Frosh Terry from SC is still healing up from his own knee surgery of 14 months ago, while in HS ball. Doubt that he will play this season.

The UGA O line appears to be very good, based on the pertinent stats.

Yes, the D MUST solidify or we are in big T vs MO, Auburn, Florida and GT.

These injuries are the worst in school history, given their number AND star power of the injured.

GO Dogs!!
UGA class of 71&73

todd44dawg

October 6th, 2013
9:38 am

Reminds me of 1980 team. We won a lot of close ones that year. Keep the faith Dawgs!!!!!!!

DoubleDawg

October 6th, 2013
9:38 am

Delusional- “this program is happy with outback bowls and 10 wins; are you just now finding this out?”

Only 1 program in America isn’t happy about a 10 win season and that is bama… and they have a fan base who will throw bricks through the windows of their coaches homes.

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
9:39 am

Just for the record I do think the vols purposely injure players! Their is evidence to prove this!

RickNWarnerRobins

October 6th, 2013
9:40 am

What a pitiful team…can barely beat one of the, if not the worst, team in the SEC. If UGA doesn’t drop four or five places in the polls, then there’s something wrong. This is not a top 10 team.

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
9:46 am

Hey all of you fellow dawg fans giving Tennessee a ton of credit…hear this! Tenn always play their best ball in that stadium against us. Plus we always play down to the level of our competition….Richts teams are mediocre on the road in general. Tennessee will be lucky too win 2 sec games this year!

todd44dawg

October 6th, 2013
9:47 am

DoubleDawg and the rest of you need to quit being negative. All great teams have to struggle and overcome injuries. So yall need to go pull for tech you bunch of losers.

BigHead

October 6th, 2013
9:49 am

Murray’s performance vs Tenn, finished as the #3 adjusted qbr rating of the week on ESPN. So, once you adjust for strength of opponent, Murray’s game this weekend was the #3 in the country.

Murray’s adjusted qbr on espn, is in the top 3 in the nation right now. Should he keep it above 95, it would be higher than anyone in the history of college football.

ARdawg

October 6th, 2013
9:51 am

The defense certainly regressed in Knoxville. Beaten and battered the Murray led offense pulled them out. That was a lot of luck, both good and bad but luck won’t carry a team a whole season. We should have been putting that game away in the 2nd quarter instead, the play calling went conservo, the crowd got louder and the Vols got to thinking they could win. We were very lucky we are not discussing a loss this morning

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
9:51 am

Rick..

Yes the vols are pitiful…..but no team should ever drop in the polls after a win…come on son! Have a great time fixing the whambling wreck car after those hurricanes hit it yeasterday! Bwaaabwaaaa!

PugDawg

October 6th, 2013
9:52 am

Bobo gets NO credit for anything. Up the middle constantly and it NEVER worked. Thank goodness Murray came thru. Just happy with a win. GoDawgs!

Mobile Dawg

October 6th, 2013
9:55 am

ARdawg, the difference is two years ago we would be discussing a loss this morning, those teams quit.

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
9:57 am

Ardawg

The defense didn’t regress in Knoxville. We have been bad on defense since 2008. That’s the UGA way….make the game as interesting as possible. We could put up Oregon like numbers on offense but Richt and bobo get way to conservative…way to early in the game!!!

DoubleDawg

October 6th, 2013
10:01 am

todd- not sure what you are talking about. I was defending Georgia based on a previous post.

Jabo

October 6th, 2013
10:01 am

The difference was not Murray, but the TN player fumbling the ball into the end zone was. Bulldogs were sooo lucky, this day the best team lost.

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
10:04 am

Reasons we barely beat the mediocre vols.

1. Richt has no killer instinct.

2. Bobo is an inconsistent player caller

3. Grantham is just plain horrible

4. We are cursed with injuries

5. The vols always play their A game vs us….then sucks against everybody else.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 6th, 2013
10:13 am

Mobile

The defensive coaches looked like they took the bus back to Athens after the 2nd qtr

Jabo

October 6th, 2013
10:14 am

Stop with Murray the best in SEC, the best in college football plays for Texas A&M and Macarron is second. Just be happy with your weak schedule for the rest of the year and thankful you don’t have to play A&M, they would score 70 points on you pretenders. Oh, and if you guys had played LSU at Baton Rouge they probably would have scored 70 on you. I almost forgot, I wish you could play Oregon but as long as you don’t have to you can go on and talk your trash.

Relentless

October 6th, 2013
10:27 am

Good teams overcome adversity. Georgia lost key offensive stars and still managed to eek out a win. Aaron Murray has finally proven himself after years of miscues. If, by some miracle Georgia wins the SEC, he should win the Heisman.

Even last year, if played at Neyland, this would have been a loss. This was supposed to be the Vols “signature” win, thankfully not at the Bulldogs’ expense. Regardless of the Vols ranking, this is payback for the 90’s. It’s almost as sweet as beating the Nerds year after year.

Macclenny_dawg

October 6th, 2013
10:27 am

Once again we can’t put a team away!!! The 1st and 2nd quarter we did everything we wanted but score!!! Bobo’s play calling is only good when he has to be. When have we ever thrown the ball 3 straight times except when we are coming from behind!!! We have a senior qb and yet Bobo is still to conservative to let Murray chunk it every down. The reason injuries occured to our starters is because by halftime they should have been watching from the bench!!! Conservative coaching with no killer instinct. Week after week and year after year we play not to lose instead of to win. The possession before Tennessee took the lead we had 4th and 4 on their side of the 40. Never should have punted!!! The offense with a senior qb or put our middle school defense on the field STUPID!!! The defense is a joke because we can’t even get lined up. There is no pre snap movement except when we blitz we just line up and the offense adjusts!!! This is NOT a nfl coached defense. Watch the better defenses and you will see plenty of pre snap movement and the d line will every once in a while back up and take away the dump of the middle passes that KIll us!!! Well anyways talent again prevailed this time!!! GATA now stands for Grantham Aces Time Abysmal!!!

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
10:28 am

Jabo……

You guys have lost two in a row…how does that feel? Lol…we will beat you nerds again…..even with Grantham!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 6th, 2013
10:31 am

Jabo

Yea I agree Manzel is the best qb in the SEC but sorry Murray is better than Mccaran

Murray has never had the luxury to have played behind arguably the best offensive line ever to play the previous 2 seasons; or a coaching staff that truly knows how to coach football on all sides of the ball

I would say Murray has played for probably one the worst offensive lines in the SEC and a coaching staff that rarely if ever can field a team that is ready to play on all sides of the game; yet he has broken almost every SEC passing record

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
10:33 am

Macclenny dawg..

Best post of the day my friend…I’ve been trying to tell fellow dawg fans this. But they think I’m just crazy though! We get to conservative when we have a lead!!!

ARdawg

October 6th, 2013
10:34 am

Mobile
I’m with ya and agree. Kudos to the offense. The D has a lot of work to do.

truth

October 6th, 2013
10:38 am

@Jabo….who does oregon play??? Really???

Bulldawg35

October 6th, 2013
10:43 am

It should’ve been 31-3 in the start of the 3 rd quarter….but bobo just got way to conservative. Maybe bobo listened to all the fans who complained about the offense scoring to fast as to why he didnt just put ball in Murray’s hands and have throw it more in the 1st half. I’m for one who never complained about that. Who cares if the defense gets tired…heck they can’t even stop teams when they’re not! tired! We could’ve put 50 plus points on the board but we just don’t know how to utilize all of our weapons…

Jabo

October 6th, 2013
10:43 am

The Heisman is for the best college athlete and no one is in the class of Manzel, no one. If he plays four years of college ball and avoids injuries I could see him winning four Heisman trophies.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 6th, 2013
10:44 am

Macclenny Dawg

“play not to lose instead of to win”

you are correct

playing

Jabo

October 6th, 2013
10:46 am

Truth
Football is played all over this country, not just here in the south, wise up.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 6th, 2013
10:47 am

Jabo

agreed but dont come on here and say Mccaron is better than Murray; I can tell you if Murray had played for Bama he would have done a whole lot more than Mccarron

Eric C.

October 6th, 2013
10:49 am

Bulldawg35,

I agree with you about the Dawgs getting conservative…it was very obvious on that drive that led to the missed FG. In defense of this however, keep in mind the injuries were getting pretty bad by that point and the Dawgs wanted to just get the heck out of there with the W…which getting a 3 score lead would just about do given the way the defense was playing up to that point.

I can see why they would play for the FG in this case. However, if Bobo had known that the FG would be missed, and that the special teams would later give up a TD on the blocked punt…I’m sure he would have called differently, right?